Genshin Impact’s world of Teyvat is home to seven Regions, each ruled by an Archon of a certain element. Zhongli was Genshin Impact’s Geo Archon ruling the Liyue Region. He appears in the storyline second only to Mondstadt’s Anemo Archon, Barbatos, who currently presents himself as his mortal vessel, Venti. Zhongli makes his first appearance during \”Chapter I, Act II: Farewell, the Archaic Lord.\”
It is through this Archon quest in Genshin Impact that the Traveler discovers Zhongli is actually the Geo Archon, Rex Lapis “Morax,” who had fallen from the sky at the Rite of Descension, stunning the citizens of Liyue. It is later discovered that Zhongli chose to fake Morax’s death and step down as the Geo Archon to test the resilience of Liyue and its people, allowing them to become fully independent of divine interference as he suspected they were capable of doing.
Zhongli, as the Travelers know, and Morax – Genshin Impact’s Geo Archon and the oldest surviving ruler of the Archon war – are not two separate beings. However, in the man’s suspected 6,000 years of living, the ex-Archon’s character development has shifted over the years with the help of those he had encountered along his journey. Unfortunately, many of these companions were unable to withstand the test of time.
Genshin Impact: Zhongli & Havria, The God of Salt
Zhongli’s first Story Quest tells of the goddess, Havria, otherwise known as the God of Salt. As a goddess with a gentle soul and kind nature, Havria was unsuited for the war that broke out and plagued her people. At the beginning of the Archon War, Havria refused to contribute to the violence and bloodshed. To escape the war, her people had dispersed to various parts of Liyue and eventually settled into present-day Sal Terrae. Her gentle nature was the very thing that turned her people against her.
Much like other parts of Teyvat, Liyue has hidden, underground areas in Genshin Impact. The betrayal of the king – who had slain Havria to prove the fact that her kindness could not save them from the cruel fate of the Archon War – is forever encased in salt deep in the sealed walls of the underground Sal Terrae domain. Despite Havria’s gentle nature, the power that expelled as she was slain was too much for the mortals surrounding her. They remain forever encased in salt, just as the king is forever frozen in his act of betrayal.
As the years went on, the details of the event were warped. Many believed that it was Morax who betrayed her out of jealousy for her power, but this theory was proven false. As seen by his voice-lines about Genshin Impact’s character Venti, Morax is capable of remembering many faces despite the amount of years that pass. It is possible that Morax felt it admirable that the God of Salt was unable to harbor hatred for her people in her gentle heart, even despite everything.
At Morax’s prime, he had to endure countless bloodshed to defend his title as the Geo Archon. The death of Havria was unavoidable; present-day Zhongli knew it was right to put her two artifacts to rest at the sea of the Guyun Stone Forest. It was only right to remember those who had fallen victim to the very war he had contributed to. At the end of Zhongli’s first Story Quest, he states, “I ended an era with my own two hands. I have always wondered how I should… remember that which I ended.”
Genshin Impact: Zhongli & Guizhong, The Lord of Dust
Guizhong was known as the Lord of Dust who established the Guili Assembly alongside Morax. This is discovered through one of Genshin Impact’s World Quests, “Treasure Lost, Treasure Found” where players help the NPC Soraya uncover the secrets behind the stone tablets left behind in the ruins of Guili Plains. Guizhong was gentle in nature and adored by her people. Compared to Morax, she was weaker in strength, though she made up for it with intelligence and wisdom.
Through intense study and research of dangerous machines, Guizhong created the defensive Guizhong Ballista, which travelers are tasked to prepare in present-day Liyue at the request of Zhongli. It is speculated that until Morax met Guizhong, he was a fierce ruler dependent on sheer power. However, as a result of Guizhong’s influence, his mannerisms had shifted to take on her wisdom and penchant for knowledge. As they had ruled over Guili Assembly together, they each balanced each other’s weaknesses with their own strengths.
Unfortunately, the Archon War had claimed Guizhong’s life, much like the cataclysm had done to La Signora’s past lover in Genshin Impact. A devastating flood swept through the Guili Assembly, and all its inhabitants traveled south where they would find the land that would later become Liyue Harbor. Early on, Guizhong gifted Morax a stone dumbbell, which symbolized their companionship and contained all of her wisdom hidden within. This dumbbell is revealed to be the Catalyst weapon, Memory of Dust. As Guizhong passed away among the Glaze Lilies that she favored, she told Morax to forget the puzzle of the stone dumbbell. Guizhong, Morax, and Cloud Retainer often ate together at the abode at Mt. Aocang. Zhongli still returns to the abode to sit in peace, though the seats surrounding him remain empty.
Genshin Impact: Zhongli & Azhdaha, The Legendary Geo Dragon
Azhdaha – one of Genshin Impact’s Bosses introduced in version 1.5 – is the oldest of the Geovishaps. According to Liyue legends, Azhdaha was once of the ancient Geo life forms underneath Liyue, though he lacked sight. The Geo Archon, Morax, heard Azhdaha’s voice and fulfilled his wish, bringing him above the ground where he was transformed into a magnificent Geo dragon. Morax gifted him with a pair of eyes to fully see the world.
Azhdaha fought alongside Morax in all corners of the world and held him in the highest regard. Unfortunately, Azhdaha was not immune to erosion. Over time, he became corrupted and was eventually sealed away, as shown in Genshin Impact’s lore trailer for Azhdaha. This seal is later broken in Zhongli’s Story Quest, Historia Antiqua Chapter. The part of Azhdaha consumed with Morax’s supposed betrayal manifested into a vessel named Jiu, who enacted a plan to break Azhdaha free from his prison by manipulating a group of miners to break the Dragon-Queller barrier. This attempt also forced the part of Azhdaha – untainted by erosion – to manifest in the benevolent Kun Jun, who had possessed the body of a human.
When Azhdaha in Genshin Impact is resealed once more, it is discovered that Morax had shared some of his power to help prevent the erosion, though his attempts had failed. Erosion was something not even the Geo Archon could stop. The benevolent manifestation of Azhdaha and Zhongli share a moment outside of the Dragon-Queller. Azhdaha remarks to Zhongli, “Even you met such a fate…” referencing Zhongli’s decision to step down as the Geo Archon, presumably losing the full extent of his power and becoming susceptible to erosion himself. Despite everything, Zhongli expresses his gratitude for the chance to see his old friend before fate separates them once more. Zhongli’s famous voice-line in Genshin Impact, “Osmanthus wine tastes the same as I remember… but where are those who share the memory?” references those he had lost in his many years of existence.